And Another Thing: The Death Of “Eazy E”
Posted by Hyatte on 01.01.2000
We come here today to mourn the passing of Uncle Eric.
When I wrote this, the Bischoff/Russo team was gone. Only Russo was left to keep the sinking WCW afloat. Poor Eric just basically had enough and it looked like he wasn’t coming back.
Actually, this piece serves as a good supplement to what is currently happening in the WWE these days. His hair’s black again, his smile is oily, and he looks as smooth and as “Eazy” as ever before. One wonders how long it’ll last.
By the way, someone took this story, put their own name at the bottom, and submitted it to the Torch. Keller posted it. Within hours and after a ton of e-mails, he pulled it. I keep telling you, I’m the best writer out there. One name change and a new e-mail account and I could have my OWN column at the Torch, guaranteed. Then, after a little while, I’d be offer a slot in their Newletter team, where the money is. Then of course, I’d reveal my true name and Keller would have a fit.
Wouldn’t THAT be a riot.
Hmm... let me think about this.
(originally presented September, 2000: 411 wrestling)
Last April, we witnessed a stunning example of the human condition.
You hear about it a lot, read about it in stories, perhaps see it on television and the movies; but rarely, if ever, seen such a shining illustration so live and so raw.
Last April, Vince Russo and Eric Bischoff re-took control of World Championship Wrestling after a long absence. One came back after being fired outright, the other came back after purposely sitting out the three month booking siege that paced Kevin Sullivan at the head of the creative table for a disastrous spell. Vince Russo was the same man he always was; loud, obnoxious, and energetic. He was the same fast talking carnival barker with a New York accent that we’ve come to know and hate.
As for the other guy? Well, he looked like Eric Bischoff and talked like Eric Bischoff.
But that was not any Eric Bischoff I've seen before.
The Eric Bischoff who walked out on the fateful Monday evening in April was not the same man who took WCW past the WWF and made it the number one promotion in the world. That Eric Bischoff had fire, enthusiasm, and a thick mane of jet black hair. That Eric Bischoff, even though many people couldn’t stand him, was a winner. He took Vince McMahon head on, stared him right in the eye, and laid the proverbial smackdown on the tired old formula that was Monday Night Raw at the time. What made him even more annoying to WWF fans, he took great pleasure in it.
A few years ago, Bischoff had one simple plan… to “drive a stake into Vince McMahon’s heart”.* No other promoter had come as close. Bischoff had it all, the top stars, a huge pool of funding, lightening quick transplants from Mexico and Japan, and even a training facility to develop new stars, and the best damn gimmick of the 90’s…the NWO. For much of the 90’s… WCW was Wrestling in America. Using his broadcasting skills and his smooth delivery, Bischoff inserted himself right into the show and presented himself as an arrogant, pompous Game Show Host. You hated him, despised him, could not stand the site of his too-white teeth, perpetually stuck in a Cheshire’s grin that rivaled that of the shadiest of ambulance chasers. From atop of his hill, “Eazy-E” smugly boasted of his greatness, once telling Bob Ryder in one of his infamous Prodigy Chats that “Vince McMahon has lost the pulse the Wrestling Fans”. Bischoff crowed loudly, daring McMahon to take him on. Eric saw WCW as unbeatable, and publicly goaded McMahon into proving him wrong.
Much to Bischoff’s surprise, that’s exactly what McMahon did… harshly, resoundingly, and absolutely.
It is foolish to lay the complete blame for WCW’s downfall on Bischoff. Many players must share responsibility. What Eric can be blamed for is complacency, eagerness, and lack of creativity. Instead of striving to compete with the WWF’s bold new “Attitude” driven style of booking, Eric stayed complacent by delivering a succession of Nitros that ended with Hulk Hogan standing over a beaten, defeated opponent and calling himself “God”. In his eagerness to hire away all of the big industry names, Bischoff signed them to obscenely lucrative contracts that offered more money for less work, which paved the way for tremendously selfish stars to start running the show backstage. Finally, Eric could not seem to deliver any sort of intriguing storylines and angles after the NWO began to burn itself out. Perhaps his efforts for new, compelling stories were blocked by his selfish, ego driven talent? Perhaps he had too many cooks looking over his shoulder? It doesn't matter now, really. WCW had it, and WCW lost it right back to the WWF... all on Bischoff's watch.
The thing is... right up until almost the very end, Eric Bischoff stayed "Eazy-E". He kept smiling, kept his shock of coal black hair, kept going orgasmic after getting kissed by Hulk Hogan every time they stepped out. Even as RAW crept up behind Nitro, Eric kept smiling. When RAW surpassed Nitro, Eric kept smiling. And when Nitro started it's long, long fall to the very bottom, Eric kept smiling. If he was hurting, he didn't show it. If the pressure got to him, he'd never let the audience see. He just flashed those teeth and kept on trying to do the best job he could.
Or maybe, the pressure did show? During the few times he tried to perform in the ring, Eric's once reasonably fit body had turned pasty and flabby. Who couldn't strongly smell the desperation when he brought Master P and the "No Limit Soldiers" into the company? Who didn't feel bad for Bischoff when he started scheduling his "NWO Night Cap with Eric Bischoff" during the 8:00 hour because fans left in droves when they first ran it against RAW? This was a man struggling to keep his head above the water, yet he never stopped smiling. He never stopped looking like he was having the time of his life.
Towards the end of his first WCW run, Eric took himself off the air for a time. He just lost his thick, black mane to Ric Flair and showed a full covering of gray underneath. He came back as the "Face Promoter", cutting spots where he told the audience, "I made mistakes, but now I'm here to make WCW #1 again." Other than getting into a mini-fistfight with "Hak" (The Sandman) over smoking on WCW television, and bringing in Kiss for a concert, he didn't make much of an impact. Bischoff's final act was to initiate a million dollar sweepstakes that was pushed heavily for one week... then was quickly forgotten the week after. Somewhere in between, Eric was relieved of all creative duties concerning WCW.
We never saw Eazy-E again.
The man who's first on-air words on his return to Nitro were, "Are you done yet?" was Eric Bischoff... yet not THE Eric Bischoff. This was a new guy who still smiled, sometimes. He still told the crowd that he loved them as much as they loved him... but not with as much pep. His backstage performances were listless, at best. Eazy-E loved the sound of his own voice, this new Eric had a few brief words to say, then let the talent take over. Eazy-E loved to proudly hold up signs that read, "MCMAHON FEARS BISCHOFF!!" This new Eric didn't even glance at the signs (of course, chances are there weren't any Pro-Bischoff-Anti-McMahon signs to be found... but that's another column). He wore his hair the same, but instead of the shocking black usually found only in comic books, Eric let the gray hair run free. Lastly, the Eric Bischoff of today no longer poked fun at the WWF's shortcomings and McMahon's faults. Instead, he would meekly preface his statements with, "Now, I'm not knocking the WWF in any way here..." then talk about how fans might just be ready for an alternative to what they usually watch on Monday nights. He sounded old. He looked old. Like an old man who's been through Hell and it humbled him deeply.
In short, the Eric Bischoff who walked out on Nitro on that warm night in April looked like a beaten man. For the first time in his career, he looked completely defeated.
Guess what? He was.
Eric Bischoff is a man who took it to Vince McMahon and gave him the greatest fight of his life. Vince fought back from behind and won. Not only that, but McMahon gave Bischoff a public spanking in front of an ENTIRE wrestling community. Fans, talent, reporters, everyone from Japan to Mexico to Canada to Connecticut to the smallest Backyard Indy Fed in the middle of nowhere USA witnessed this major flogging. Eric went from being the man who would be King to Vince McMahon's personal lapdog. In front of EVERYONE. McMahon slapped the color out of Eazy-E's hair and left a gray haired, humiliated shell of a man lying there.
No wonder he didn't last much past six weeks.
Oh sure, people will say that he ran into "creative differences" with Vince Russo, and just walked away from this new "marriage". But I think the real truth is that Eric Bischoff wanted to make one last chance to save face by taking another swing at rebuilding his crumbled empire and saw that it would never happen. There was no way he would suffer the same humiliation again... so he left quietly. Who wouldn't? The conditions of WCW were basically the same as when he left. Egos still ran then locker room and Turner Accountants now kept a tight eye on the payroll while Standards and Practices kept a tight eye on the content. This was a no-win situation. The only difference between now and a year ago, Eric knew it was a no-win situation and refuses to go through another thorough punk out... after all, look at how much the first one humbled him. How could he stand another one? Eric moved onto TV and Web Site production... with a TV "reality" show already on tap for a UPN mid-season replacement series. It's a safe, easy job for Eric to have. The very worse the networks can do is turn his show pitches down. He's in no danger of getting slapped down like a red-headed stepchild by NBC Brass.
The only reason why this months-old topic earns some discussion is because of the recent news (rumors) that Eric Bischoff and Jason Hervey's "Mandalay Entertainment" may buy WCW lock, stock, and barrel from Time Warner. I guess Eric thinks that if he has absolute control of WCW, things may go differently. I credit him for trying. But I can't help but wonder... should the deal go through and if Eric Bischoff becomes sole owner of the company... which Bischoff will step out on camera? How bright will his smile be? What color will his hair be this time around?
He went from arrogant jerk to humbled loser. What aspect of the Human Condition will he embody this time around?
A beaten man taking control of WCW once again?
After what WCW's gone through these past few years, it really kind of fits.
This is Hyatte too